Buddhism, Catholicism, Shintoism, Muslim, Hinduism, the Baha'i faith and
Protestantism -- you'll learn about these religions and more in a religious
Religious studies is also sometimes called comparative religions. You'll
find it offered across North America at the bachelor's, master's and PhD levels. Most
students go on to pursue a graduate degree.
This degree won't prepare you for a specific career. But it will give you
the kind of liberal education that prepares you for a variety of paths, from
education to law.
Strong reading and writing skills are important, says Kathryn McClymond,
a professor at Georgia State University. You must also be able to separate
opinions from academic study.
You'll also need some background in other languages, says Mario Morelli.
He is chair of religious studies at Western Illinois University. "For students
who want to explore certain areas, such as world religions or biblical studies, an
aptitude for foreign languages is important," he says.
Courses encompass philosophy, sociology, history, anthropology, English,
foreign languages and the arts. This combination is necessary for students
to fully understand why cultures have certain belief systems.
Schools with good, thorough religious studies programs focus on all aspects
of a culture or religion, including the historical, sociological, theological,
anthropological and ethnographical aspects, in an undergraduate program.
At the higher levels, you'll be able to specialize more, focusing on a single
religion or historical period.
"Students will gain a competence in analyzing and interpreting complex
social and cultural phenomena, and a familiarity with the diverse ways people
try to make sense of and give meaning to their lives," says Morelli.
Joining religious studies societies provides students with newsletters,
career information and current job opportunities. Some of the more prominent
organizations include the American Academy of Religion, the Council for Biblical
Studies, the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion and the American
Academy of Religion.
High school students should take a foreign language, history, religion
or any other ethnic courses.
McClymond recommends students take "classes that develop all of these abilities
-- history, English, social sciences, philosophy. Also, classes that force
students to write argumentative essays and classes that expose students to
other cultures, other ways of understanding the world."
Debate clubs help you to organize and communicate ideas. Any activity
that exposes you to different cultural backgrounds is worthwhile.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Teachers
Religion News Service
Objective coverage of current events in the world's religions
Virtual Religion Index
Lots of links from Rutgers University